A Clinton Revival & Pelosi’s Last Laugh

Hillary Clinton
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
September 19, 2022

In retrospect, perhaps the apotheosis of the Clinton era wasn’t manifested in the various peace accords or legislative triangulations of his administration, and not even the booming economy or the now-quaint bipartisan squabbling with Newt. Instead, the height of the high-minded, high-powered, high-volume deal culture would be concocted years later in the formation of the Clinton Global Initiative, which, depending on one’s politics, generally appears either as a powerful platform for worldwide social engagement or a palm-greasing McKinsey mosh pit of E.S.G.-fluent International Baccalaureate-credentialed bankers.

During the Bush and Obama years, C.G.I. may have practiced a bit of both, and its annual global confab became an utterly unique amalgamation of Davos, the Met Ball, Inauguration Day and a Kardashian wedding. Then, alas, the event was tabled after 2016, perhaps to avoid the unpleasant optics during Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president. And it remained off the calendar, perhaps as a reflection of the Clintons’ uncertain standing in the world, post-email server, post-Trump, post-Epstein, post-Ryan Murphy’s creatively brilliant, if commercially underwhelming, Impeachment: American Crime Story, which applied a new cultural filter to the victimhood of Lewinsky, as portrayed by Beanie Feldstein.

Anyway, nothing lasts forever, especially not in politics. Now, after six years, the event has returned in the form of a scaled-back, soft-focus, and noticeably shortened two-day showcase of celebrities, global leaders and politicians, as Bill and Hillary step gingerly back into the limelight. There were a mix of factors behind the decision to relaunch the signature Clinton Foundation event, as I reported for Playbook earlier this year: boredom and relevance-seeking, of course, but also recognition that the political temperature surrounding America’s former first couple had finally cooled enough to make the whole thing palatable. Hillary’s email controversy had quieted, the FX show had a short tail, and the Epstein scandal never legally implicated Bill. Hillary and Chelsea are even hosting an Oprah-esque Apple TV+ show, Gutsy, which attempts to show the former’s softer side.